Audio: Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble from the Virgin
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp) extensively reworking a drawing attributed to Hans Witdoeck (Antwerp 1615-after 1642)
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Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp) extensively reworking a drawing attributed to Hans Witdoeck (Antwerp 1615-after 1642)

Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble from the Virgin

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp) extensively reworking a drawing attributed to Hans Witdoeck (Antwerp 1615-after 1642)
Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble from the Virgin
black and white chalk, pen and black ink, grey wash, heightened with white on light brown paper, brown ink framing lines
20¾ x 14¼ in. (52.5 x 35.8 cm.)
Probably among the drawings acquired en bloc from Rubens's studio sale in 1657 by Canon Jan Philip Happart.
Everhard IV Jabach; and by descent to his widow
Anna Maria de Groote.
Pierre Crozat; Paris, 10 April-13 May 1741, part of lot 818 ('Deux, idem [Desseins]; savoir, le Martyre de S. Pierre, tableau qui est dans la chapelle de la famille de Messieurs Jabach à Cologne, & S. Ildefonse recevant un habit des mains de la sainte Vierge; ce dernier Dessein a été gravé par Witdouc [sic]...') (135 livres to Mariette).
P.-J. Mariette (L. 2097); Paris, 15 November 1775-30 January 1776, lot 1003 ('Saint Ildephonse recevant des mains de la Vierge une Chasuble, superbe composition de six Figures en pieds, & d'une gloire d'Anges au dessus: ce Sujet est connu par l'Estampe qu'en a gravé, d'après & de même grandeur, Witdoeck; il est fait à l'encre de la Chine, rehaussé de blanc, & d'une conservation parfaite, l'intelligence du clair obscur y est observé avec tout l'art possible') (251 livres to Daudet).
G.E. Martin, by 1900.
Plasse Collection, Paris.
Mme E. Marich, by 1965.
with Agnew's, London.
James Fairfax, Bowral, New South Wales.
M. Rooses, L'oeuvre de P.P. Rubens, Antwerp, 1886-92, 1888, II, p. 306.
A. Graves, A century of loan exhibitions 1813-1912, London, 1913-15, III, 1914, p. 1172.
J. Müller Hofstede, 'Rubens' Stechvorlage für die 'Vision des Hl. Ildefons', Pantheon, XXIII, no. 5, 1965, pp. 382-85, fig. 1.
H. Vlieghe, Saints: Corpus Rubenianum VIII, Brussels, 1972-73, II, pp. 82, 92.
K. Renger, 'Rubens dedit dedicavitque: Rubens' Beschäftigung mit der Reproduktionsgrafik, I: Teil: Der Kupferstich', Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, XVI, 1974, p. 158.
T. Clifford, 'Drawings at Agnew's, Baskett & Day's and Armando Neerman', The Burlington Magazine, CXVIII, no. 879, June 1976, pp. 447-48, ill. p. 445.
I. Pohlen, Untersuchungen zur Reproduktionsgraphik der Rubenswerkstatt, Munich, 1985, pp. 287-88. fig. 52a.
Hollstein, Dutch/Flemish, LIII, 1999, p. 141.
B. Py, Everhard Jabach collectionneur (1618-1695): Les dessins de l'inventaire de 1695, notes et documents des museés de France, Paris, 2001, p. 238, no. 1004.
A. Diels, The Shadow of Rubens. Print Publishing in 17th-Century Antwerp. Prints by the History Painters Abraham van Diepenbeeck, Cornelis Schut and Erasmus Quellinus II, London and Turnhout, 2009, pp. 134-135.
London, New Gallery, 1900, no. 124.
London, Agnew's, Master Drawings and Prints, 1976, no. 30.
London, Agnew's, Old Master Drawings, 1993, no. 11.
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, The James Fairfax Collection of Old Master Paintings, Drawings and Prints, 2003, no. 49.
In reverse by Hans (Jan) Witdoeck, 1638 (Hollstein 21).

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Lot Essay

Related to the 1638 engraving by Hans Witdoeck, this imposing sheet records the composition of one of Rubens's most celebrated altarpieces: the Triptych of Saint Ildefonso (circa 1631). Commissioned by the Archdukes Albert and Isabella, whose portraits ornament its outer wings, the triptych was initially intended for the chapel of the Brotherhood of Saint Ildefonso in the church of Saint Jacob op de Coudenberg in Brussels. It remained there until 1777 when it entered the Imperial Collections in Vienna and is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (inv. 678; Vlieghe, op. cit., no. 117). It represents the miraculous vision of Saint Ildefonso, the 7th century Archbishop of Toledo who was a champion of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and to whom the Virgin appeared during a nocturnal procession in the cathedral, to present him with a chasuble as a token of her gratitude for his loyalty.

Hans or Jan Witdoeck was an Antwerp engraver and publisher who started his career in the studios of Lucas Vorsterman (in 1630-31) and Cornelis Schut (1631-33), and who became a close collaborator of Rubens from circa 1635. He executed prints after fourteen compositions by Rubens, of which Saint Ildefonso is one of the most complex and elaborate, in which printer and painter collaborated to translate Rubens's distinctive style into the medium of engraving. There has been much debate in Rubens scholarship about the correct attribution for these modelli for prints, with Müller Hofstede (1965) arguing that the changes between the painting and the present drawing must point to Rubens's full authorship; while in 1973 Vlieghe took the opposite view and argued that it should in fact be seen as a work by Witdoeck in its entirety. More recent scholarly opinion, however, is that preparatory drawings for Rubens's prints should be seen more in the nature of an artistic collaboration. The black chalk underdrawing was made by Witdoeck or another artist in the studio but was then extensively reworked by Rubens in pen and black ink, grey wash and white gouache. This retouching is so extensive that relatively little of the underdrawing remains visible. The same process can be seen in two other highly-finished modelli for engravings, also formerly in the Jabach collection. The Assumption of the Virgin in the Getty Museum (circa 1624), made in preparation for Paulus Pontius's print, began with an initial drawing by Pontius himself and was then adapted by Rubens; while Queen Tomyris with the Head of Cyrus (circa 1630), in a private German collection, is a study for another Pontius engraving, in which the first drawing is thought to be by one of Rubens's studio assistants (Peter Paul Rubens: The Drawings, ex. cat., New York, 2005, nos. 53 and 55).

Preparing a print offered Rubens the opportunity not only to publicize his composition but to develop it. Here, the columns of the Virgin's throne have been changed from the straight pillars of the painting into sinuous Solomonic columns, alluding to the Temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, the feet of the throne have been developed into lions' paws, in reference to the Lion of Judah from whom Christ traced his descent. The drawing also corrects the overly crowded nature of the composition, opening it up on the left-hand side to allow the figure of the outer female saint to be seen in its entirety. Once the initial drawing had been made, Rubens then added extensive areas of reworking in gouache which developed the solidity of the figures and the sheen of light rippling on fabric and skin - an effect which Witdoeck would translate effectively into his finished engraving. Rubens remained deeply involved in the process until the final state of the print: while the first state (Hollstein 21/I) follows the drawing, the third state (Hollstein 21/III) introduces further refinements, following Rubens's corrections to the second state, such as the addition of an extra sweep of drapery to the mantle of the saint on the right of the engraving.

With its splendid provenance from a series of distinguished 17th and 18th century collections - those of Jabach, Crozat and Mariette - this drawing has long been admired as an example of Rubens's masterful use of the oil sketch. Its power and high finish testify to the close relationships which Rubens maintained with his printmakers, who played such a key role in establishing and promoting his artistic pre-eminence; and it also demonstrates Rubens's unfailing perfectionism as an artist, expressed in his desire continually to develop and refine the impact of his greatest compositions.

We are grateful to Jeremy Wood for confirming the attribution and for his assistance in preparing this note.

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